Indigenous newsmakers of 2017: people whose stories we followed this year

From the ongoing fight of Indigenous children's advocate Cindy Blackstock, to the political challenges and triumphs of Wab Kinew, to the tragic death of Barbara Kentner, these names made headlines in 2017.

CBC Indigenous gathers the top 5 names that made headlines

From the ongoing fight of Indigenous children's advocate Cindy Blackstock, to the political challenges and triumphs of Wab Kinew, to the tragic death of Barbara Kentner, these names made headlines in 2017.

Here are a few of the top Indigenous newsmakers of the year. 

Cindy Blackstock

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last year. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Child health advocate Cindy Blackstock scored a victory this year in the ongoing fight to have the federal government fully implement Jordan's principle. 

Jordan's principle is meant to prevent First Nations children from being denied essential public services or experiencing delays in receiving them due to jurisdictional squabbles. 

In 2007 the Assembly of First Nations, and Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleging Canada was discriminating against First Nations children by underfunding child welfare services on reserves. In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with Blackstock and the AFN.

In November, the federal government announced that it was no longer going to fight the human rights tribunal ruling, having reached an agreement with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations over reasonable time frames for care.

Wab Kinew

Wab Kinew was elected leader of Manitoba's NDP. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

It was a challenging year for the former broadcaster and Anishinaabe politician. Wab Kinew threw his name in to lead Manitoba's NDP party in early April. In August, it surfaced that he had been charged in 2003 with assaulting his former partner and the charges were stayed.

He denied physical violence but said that in his early 20s "I was not in the best place in my life" and apologized for doing things to hurt the family emotionally.

The allegations of abuse caused a rift within the Indigenous community, with Senator Murray Sinclair calling it a "witch hunt."

Kinew won the NDP leadership race in September. In November, he announced that he and his wife are expecting a baby in the new year.

Joseph Boyden 

Author Joseph Boyden's Indigenous heritage was called into question this year. (CBC)

A week before 2016 ended, investigative reporter Jorge Barrera published a story for APTN that put celebrated author Joseph Boyden's Indigenous identity into question.

The question of whether or not Boyden was Indigenous sparked many heated online discussions, a number of opinion pieces, and was a divisive issue among Indigenous Peoples. The conversation also piqued interest among non-Indigenous folks. 

A few weeks later, Boyden spoke with CBC Radio's q, saying he was a "white kid from Willowdale — with Native roots" and that "a small part of me is Indigenous, but it's a big part of who I am."

He also said that he was guilty of taking too much of the air time talking about Indigenous issues. "I should be allowing those with deeper roots in their communities to speak for their communities," he said. 

Barbara Kentner

Barbara Kentner, left, with her sister, Melissa Kentner. Barbara Kentner was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving car in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Jan. 29. (Jody Porter/CBC)

Barbara Kentner, 34, was hit in the stomach by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving vehicle in Thunder Bay, Ont., in January.

Kentner's sister called it a hate crime and many Indigenous people said they had had similar experiences on Thunder Bay's streets of people hurling things at them from passing vehicles.

Brayden Bushby, 18, was initially charged with aggravated assault, however the charges were upgraded to second-degree murder when Kentner died of her injuries in July.

Bushby is currently out on bail awaiting trial.

Arthur and Kanahus Manuel 

The late Arthur Manuel, pictured here, and Grand Chief Ron Derrickson wrote the books Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call and The Reconciliation Manifesto, which was released this fall. (

Arthur Manuel, who died in January, was one of the most influential Indigenous activists in the country. He co-wrote the books Unsettling Canada and 2017's The Reconciliation Manifesto.

Kanahus Manuel, is leading a growing group of activists and volunteers in a unique project to block the expansion of the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline on Indigenous territory. (Carrie Cervantes)

His daughter, Kanahus, is continuing the family legacy of standing up for Indigenous rights. She is one of the main drivers behind the Tiny House Warriors project, where people are building tiny homes on the proposed route of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Kanahus Manuel was involved in the Standing Rock protests. In October, she had all of her charges dropped by the state of North Dakota, including criminal trespass, engaging in a riot, obstruction of a governmental function, disobedience of a public safety order during riot conditions and disorderly conduct.

Honorable mentions:

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson released her critically acclaimed book Son of a Trickster in 2017. The author was awarded the $50,000 2017 Writers' Trust of Canada Fellowship and was short listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The book took Robinson eight years to write.

Autumn Peltier

​The Anishinaabe teen has been receiving international recognition for her advocacy relating to clean waters. She was the only teen in Canada who was nominated for the 2017 International Childrens Peace Prize. She has also been invited to the United Nations General Assembly next year to speak about protecting water.

The Onaman Collective

The Onaman Collective is comprised of Christi Belcourt, Isaac Murdoch and Erin Konsmo. Together, the trio have created resistance campaigns to Canada's 150th, used art and spirituality to create environmental awareness, and have also used their art to help fund an Anishinaabe language camp in Ontario.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1